I’m not that adamant about FPS games in general, but my interest has been held and sustained by first person titles such as Oblivion and Bioshock. Probably one of the games that I had been most comfortable with “jumping into” cooperatively that I did not own at home had traditionally been Halo on the X-Box (for the record, I’ve played it around 5 times, but felt much more comfortable with the mechanics and was able to hold my own compared to CounterStrike).
However, I think that in this day and age, not having female soldiers on the field of battle at all continues to prevent the more versatile female gamers – that is, willing to try their hand at everything from RTS to RPG to FPS – from getting into the genre. This is especially the case in multi-million dollar game titles. Even for a shooter, there are many motivations and strategies that one can play it – especially with the proliferation of classes such as electronics warfare and medics in many of the recent titles. So, why not the simple option of female characters?
I want to be given an option to see women on the field. Games are a fantasy, after all, and my fantasy is that I would like to see more of the perceived inequalities between men and women as skilled combatants becoming more equalized. This is especially in the case of future dystopia/sci-fi storylines, where you’d think women would be necessarily included towards so-and-so fight for the survival of the human race. Women having the typography of lower str & con in the game world? That can be easily explained In Character through enhanced military training and evolution. So why can’t developers take that extra little step to reach out to a wider and less narrow-minded audience?
Which is why I’m not amused in the slightest by the lack of female avatars in Brink, and especially the fan base’s conversation surrounding its release. Brink is currently being under development for Q1 2011 by Splash Damage, to be published by Bethesda Networks. It seems to have everything that I find appealing: deep customization, stylized and unique artwork, great hit detection, and parkour-like navigation to take advantage of some terrific level design. However, there is one part that excludes me. There has been too many games in the past which have male-exclusive characters, but where we can chalk it up to the relative newness of the gameplay mechanics, and the style of the game. I don’t think that we can make the same argument anymore. While Brink fans are oohing and ahhing over the huge variety of customization and outfits and accessorizing that they can deck out their gun-totting male brawler in, some of them have the audacity to insult others for wanting female avatars, for either themselves, their wives, or their female friends. It’s this sort of attitude that I feel is a step backwards for the genre, because clearly the technology is there for us to go beyond the “old boys shooting club”. When the celebration of boys’ dress-up play can be weighed at the cost of the girls’ representation, I wonder why people are not more discomfited by this. It’s game design decisions like these which makes me seek out games such as Borderlands, Metal Gear Solid, Mass Effect, EVE Online, Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, and so on – over Brink and its ilk.
Mind, I don’t mind playing as a male character in some cases (Hi, Gordon Freeman, you hunk). But I want to be at least given the option to represent my own sex. It’s a necessary nod – albeit sometimes undergirded by a developer’s fan service – at the fact that we can act in progressive roles in these game multiverses.